Ever since the Arizona Game and Fish Department killed two mountain lions on the edge of Flagstaff last fall, residents have been grappling with the hard facts of life on the edge of the forest.
Game and Fish contracted with the federal Wildlife Services agency to kill the two lions, one Sept. 16 and the other Dec. 5, after reports that they followed hikers on Mount Elden, at the city's northeast edge, and swiped at their unleashed dogs.
After the second lion's death, about 100 lion advocates held a vigil at the base of Mount Elden, and some called for recreationists to accept the hazards of lion country.
"If we take our dog in the woods and it gets attacked, it's our own damn fault," says Paul Beier, a Northern Arizona University professor who studies cougars.
But Game and Fish Supervisor Ron Sieg says his agency still has to weigh public safety. "It's kind of a lose/lose situation," says Sieg. "If we don't do something and someone gets killed, we're going to get in trouble."
After the attacks, the Forest Service and Coconino County met to discuss better enforcement of the city's leash law, but a Forest Service spokesperson said recently there will be no changes to management as long as there are no more mountain lion attacks.
Forest Service district ranger Gene Waldrip says he will keep the trail system open unless Game and Fish decides that other lions have become a threat to public safety.
Says Waldrip, "We've heard clearly from the community that co-existence is important."
Copyright © 2002 HCN and Anne Minard